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Market Eye: Tulsa StationsTurn Up the Heat

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KOTV has long ruled the ratings roost in Tulsa, Okla., but a shake-up in the landscape has injected some excitement into the race. Cox Media Group last December acquired KOKI and KMYT from Newport Television, part of a $302 million deal. A longtime radio operator in the Tulsa market, Cox now pairs its two TV stations with five radio stations and Tulsa’s main cable system as well.

Holly Allen, VP/general manager at Cox’s Fox- MyNetworkTV duopoly, says it’s a rare case of broadcast, cable and radio under one umbrella in a market. “The upside is tremendous in terms of the opportunity to collaborate,” Allen says.

The acquisition means KOTV’s current relationship with the local Cox radio outlets ends later this year, but the Griffin Communications-owned station has a few tricks up its sleeve. The CBS affiliate recently moved into a state-of-the-art facility that blows away the leaky old “dump,” in Griffin COO Rob Krier’s words. Morale is high at KOTV and sister CW station KQCW. “We’ve always been very proud of the product we put out every day,” says Houston Hunt, Griffin VP of marketing. “But now there’s a lot of pride of place.”

Krier oversees the Tulsa duopoly from Griffin headquarters 90 miles away in Oklahoma City; having separate general managers at its stations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City (KWTV) might stand in the way of them working together to best cover the state, Krier says.

Allbritton has Tulsa ABC affiliate KTUL and Scripps holds NBC outlet KJRH. Local independents KWHB and KGEB specialize in religion. LeSea’s KWHB adds family-friendly syndicated shows and hunting and fishing to the faith content. “You put it all together, and it’s perfect for the Tulsa market,” says KWHB general manager Dan Smith.

KTUL has overhauled its anchor team following a series of retirements. One key hire is Jennifer Zeppelin, formerly of KCNC Denver, as chief meteorologist. Pat Baldwin, KTUL president and general manager, believes Zeppelin is the first female chief meteorologist in Oklahoma TV. “Female [talent] always seems to outshine the men” throughout the market, he says.

Baldwin is also pumped to have Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, which KJRH grabbed in 2004 but gave up last September to launch Scripps’ homegrown access shows. “It was a huge difference in February,” Baldwin says of the just-completed sweeps month.

KOTV ran the table in the November sweeps, winning total-day ratings along with primetime, morning, early evening and late news, where its 12.2 household/ 20.3 rating at 10 p.m. bested KTUL’s 5.1/8.6. KOTV thrives on being locally owned with a combined 86 years in the market among its frontline four talent, says Krier. “When you have good people and keep them, that’s what happens,” he adds.

KOTV also enjoys the only news helicopter in the market, and is the rare CBS affiliate that is local from 7-8 a.m. KQCW plans to expand its 9 p.m. news to an hour later this year.

Tulsa is in strong economic shape. While it’s Nielsen’s No. 59 DMA, it ranks an impressive 55th in revenue, thanks to a booming energy business. Tulsa also has a lively music scene, with the BOK Center attracting national acts, and various casinos offering substantial venues too. “We’re just booming as a music market,” says Baldwin. (His new chief meteorologist doesn’t boast of a rock ’n’ roll past; Jennifer Zeppelin’s bio clarifies: “It’s her real last name, and she isn’t related to the rock band.”)

The Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament brought thousands to the market Feb. 22-24 and gave the stations a fun story to cover. “We feel very optimistic about the market,” says Griffin’s Hunt. “We remain committed to serving Tulsa, and our ratings show that.”

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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.